Immunization one of the safest tools in modern medicine

It’s the medical miracle that has saved the lives of more babies and children in Canada than any other medical intervention in the last 50 years. It has stopped diseases, like polio, that once struck fear in the hearts of parents worldwide. And it is among the safest tools of modern medicine.

Immunization—also referred to as vaccination—has literally saved millions of lives and continues to be the best and most effective way to protect families, especially infants and children, from serious illness.

However, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that proves

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the importance of immunization, a few parents are concerned about risks from vaccines.

Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, says information and education are key to ease these concerns. Vaccines today are made using small components of dead or weakened microorganisms. These help the immune system learn how to protect itself by building up antibodies naturally.

“Vaccines are safe, with huge benefits to your child’s health. They’re backed by strong medical research to ensure their safety and effectiveness,” said Dr. King. “Immunization actually builds up your immune system, making you stronger and more resistant to disease throughout all stages of life.”

Canadians can feel confident that vaccines undergo vigorous testing by Health Canada prior to being authorized for use.

What would happen if we stopped immunizing?

Experience from other countries shows that diseases quickly return when fewer people are immunized. For example, Ireland saw measles soar to more than 1,200 cases in the year 2000 (compared with just 148 the previous year) because immunization rates fell to around 76 per cent. In Russia 1994, there were 5,000 deaths due to diphtheria after the organized immunization system was suspended. Previously, Russia only had a few cases of diphtheria each year and no deaths.

Ontario has a history of setting the standard when it comes to publicly-funded immunization programs. The province was the first jurisdiction in the world to publicly fund a universal influenza immunization program and now it is the first province in Canada to offer a publicly-funded vaccine for rotavirus.

In August 2011, the Ontario government expanded the immunization schedule to include:

• A new oral rotavirus vaccine to protect infants against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.

• A second childhood dose of varicella vaccine to enhance protection against chickenpox.

• A booster pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine for adults age 19-64, who often pass this highly-contagious disease to infants and children.

“Approximately 140,000 infants annually will potentially benefit from the rotavirus vaccine and many other children and adults will benefit from the expanded access to the chickenpox and whooping cough vaccines,” said Dr. King. “Individually and collectively, the new vaccines will guard and protect Ontario’s children against common illnesses that bring about serious complications.”

To learn more about the importance of immunizations, along with the new and enhanced vaccine program, speak to your family physician and visit